Only less than two months ago, this Rangers squad was running through brick walls for its manager Steven Gerrard.
The Anfield legend had overhauled the side with his own signings, players he’d cherry-picked to replace the existing ones, and they, in concert with the players he elected to choose of the-then current squad, were clearly running their hearts out for the gaffer.
This was never more evident than in Russia, when 9-man Rangers braved its way through a torturous evening and made the Europa League group stage in borderline impossible circumstances.
Ibrox Noise was starting to compare Gerrard to the great titan himself Walter Smith, with the intuitive ability to command respect, show leadership, and have even Andy Halliday looking like a player.
Fast-forward to today and the climate has dramatically changed.
The players are no longer delivering for this manager, and the manager is publicly flogging them every chance he gets for it.
What’s gone wrong?
For us, the first sign of trouble was in Spain. For absolutely no reason, fan-favourite and brilliantly-performing Nikola Katic was ditched for on-loan Joe Worrall in a decision which made zero sense. Sure, Katic hadn’t been 100% perfect but he was playing for the shirt and his partnership with Goldson (more on that later) was a huge reason for Rangers’ upturning fortunes.
Gerrard saw fit to end that and put in Worrall, who has had one good 90 minutes since he arrived (Rapid).
This incident showed a strange level of man-management and not even Gerrard’s most ardent admirers (which we were, incidentally) could justify it other than ‘In Gerrard We Trust’.
Fair enough. But the real trouble for us started at Hamilton. When Gerrard inexplicably selected Jordan Rossiter (who hasn’t featured since) and while the Scouser didn’t drown, he wasn’t far off it. He wasn’t ready. The diabolical display then saw a win against all odds and Ibrox Noise already started to have that sinking feeling.
Then Aberdeen. None of what Gerrard said was wrong, he just shouldn’t have said it publicly. It was inappropriate, out of place, and it discouraged players. Instead of inspiring them, it was slamming them for all to hear.
Then, today, he’s done it again, slammed the players and used the same rhetoric he has started to use the past few weeks.
One commenter on the site has made a big claim; that he’s Warburton mark 2. Well, we can say this. Remember when Gerrard originally joined and talked about managing game by game based on how the opponent set up and lined up? Correct, yes? Well, the past month Steven Gerrard has reverted to Bread Man dialogue instead by talking about how it’s all about us and what we do. Every. Single. Time.
And last night, we watched another 90 minutes of lack of effort, heart, quality and spirit. These players are no longer delivering for the manager because he slams them rather than supporting them.
Footballers are precious – they need guidance. And your manager repeatedly smearing you publicly is not going to work. Players are now scared to play for Rangers – they are scared to play as they can.
Look at how terrible these guys are now compared with two months ago. Scott Arfield and Lassana Coulibaly are shells of themselves, and Ryan Kent, our previously best player, has utterly struggled and looked disheartened the past two matches. Even Glenn Middleton has crumpled to nothing of late.
Steven Gerrard keeps banging on about how he expects his big players to step up and deliver – and attacks them for not doing it. Attacks them aggressively. Attacks them personally.
And whether we like it or not, that isn’t going to work. Some fans might say he’s saying the right thing and that these players should be told this stuff because this is Rangers. But then we point out Walter never did and that was Rangers too. There’s a way of doing things, and Gerrard seems to think the Jose Mourinho school of slamming his players is the way forward.
It. Isn’t. Working. And while we are far from alleviating the players of blame here (let’s face it, they’ve been mince the past month or so) Gerrard is not going the right way about getting a reaction to bad results.
We fully expect the usual abuse (often personal) for this piece, for speaking our minds. We were right about Warburton, Ally, Caixinha and Murty. And we keep hoping we’re wrong on this one.
Hopefully Gerrard learns fast because right now, it’s not working.